Previous 1 2 Next 18 Replies Latest reply: Feb 2, 2012 2:32 PM by Gandalf The Grey
KYL Level 1 (20 points)



I've searched the net and cant find the specific answers I'm looking for regarding this issue.


Which graphics option is better for the Mac mini when connected to an Apple Thunderbolt display running at 2560 x 1440 resolution:


1) AMD Radeon HD 6630M with its 256mb GDDR5 memory




2) Intel HD 3000 with 512mb of memory ( i.e. I will upgrade the Mac mini to 8gb or RAM to get 512mb of video memory).



Now will the HD 3000 with its 512mb of system memory be better simply because it has more, or will the AMD 6630M be better because even though it has less memory it has faster GDDR5 memory as opposed to the DDR3 memory the Intel GPU will use?


I tested out the AMD 6630M in an Apple store and when I had multiple Safari windows open it struggled a bit when I used expose. It stuttered and lagged and the animation was not smooth. Would the Intel 3000 with 512mb ease this problem?



  • Fortuny Level 7 (21,430 points)

    From the table in this document I would say that the 6630 is more powerful for ThunderBolt usage than the Intel 3000.


    But a final descision should be made only when testing the combination in an Apple Store or reseller.



  • woodmeister50 Level 5 (4,835 points)

    It all depends on your usage.  If you use applications that require

    a lot of GPU horsepower (games and some rendering apps), you

    will need the discrete GPU.


    As to how the HD 3000 graphics handles a Thunderbolt Display,

    I have just recently purchased one and am currently using it with

    a 2011 13" i7 Macbook Pro, which has the same integrated graphics.

    The MBP has 8 gig of RAM and I have had no problems or issues

    so far.  My usage is primarily electronics design wiith Win7 in

    Parallels doing mostly 2D schematics and some mechhanical

    CAD work on the Mac side.  I have had no problems with moving

    and redrawing large parts of complex designs.


    I have also, as a test, openned up some of my previous software

    and firmware projects and openned a lot of windows and played

    with cutting and pasting and such and have also had no problems.


    As for all the "effects", I always disable as much of the eye candy

    as possible as it does nothing for productivity and I find it really



    p.s.  Forgot to mention that I am running 10.7.2 and have applied

            all other firmware and software updates.

  • KYL Level 1 (20 points)



    I don't suppose you could test out expose and mission control for me? In the Apple store I had about 8 safari windows open and this was when the animations was laggy and stuttering. When I had 3 windows open the animation seemed ok.



  • woodmeister50 Level 5 (4,835 points)

    Openned up 9 windows in Safari, all different sites (Google Maps being one),

    added a couple desktops and and moved some windows to them and

    Mission Control switched desktops quite snappily.  Moving windows

    between desktops was fast and so was moving in and out of Mission



    This was only a quick 5 minute test, but saw no issues.


    One thing to note, even though you were at an Apple Store, they

    may not have had all firmware and software updates installed.

    How well display machines are maintained can vary greatly from

    one store to another.  Also, there is no telling what background

    tasks they may have been running, which can slow things, regardless

    of graphics card.  Also, more than likely, they were stock machines

    with just the minimum RAM that they come with.  Taking this into

    account, quite often laggy or stuttering graphics is more often

    a function of CPU and memory load, and not graphics card performance.

  • woodmeister50 Level 5 (4,835 points)

    One thing I should also make clear, is that my MBP does

    have the 2.7 GHz i7 CPU.  The CPU has a much better

    perfomance than the i5s in the base Minis.

  • KYL Level 1 (20 points)

    Thanks for checking it out for me. I was thinking the same thing about the in-store mini. It was the 2.5ghz, 4gb ram and 6630m graphics but as you say they are not always well maintained with everyone opening random stuff on it.


    I've ordered the mini with 2.7ghz i7, I will be installing 8gb RAM myself and I have the 7200rpm drive upgrade too. So when I get it I will test it out.


    Thanks for the help

  • woodmeister50 Level 5 (4,835 points)

    Your welcome and good luck.  I think you will be pleased.

    The Mini your getting is basically my MBP without display

    or optical disk.  Make sure you get all updates installed

    when you get it, if needed, both firmware and software.

    There was also a firmware update for the Thunderbolt display

    itself that may be needed.  If all is current, should work great.

  • ZX48 Level 1 (0 points)

    Dear KYL,


    Could you please provide an update on your Expose/MC graphics performance of the i7 with Radeon 6630M?


    I just recently purchased the i7 server version (quad core but intel HD3000 graphics), and Expose and Mission contorl are both sluggish and jerky on a Dell 2560x1440 display. If I drop the resolutin down and ouput over HDMI, it seems to be smoother.


    I went to apple store and could only try the base i5 mini with HD3000 connected to Thunderbolt. This was also jerky.


    By comparison, a 27" iMac gave silky smooth expose and MC function.


    I use expose hundrreds of times a day as I have a very intensive multitasking workflow. I don't need any 3D graphics capabilities.


    I am really disappointed, and am hoping to replace the i7 server for the i7 model with 6630M GPU. Please can you let me know if is model runs OK?


    Alternatively, would upgrading my i7 server to 8Gb make a difference?

  • woodmeister50 Level 5 (4,835 points)

    ZX48 wrote:


    Alternatively, would upgrading my i7 server to 8Gb make a difference?

    I have 8 gig of RAM on my MiniServer/Thunderbolt setup

    and it works quit well.  Taking the RAM to 8 gig boosts

    the amount of RAM available for video from 384 to 512

    meg.  Also, it seems from your description that you have

    a lot of apps, or apps that use a lot of data.  Increasing the

    RAM will also improve what may be percieved as a video

    issue, when it may be actually a general memory issue.


    Also note, that the iMac not only has a much more powerful

    graphics card (better than any Mini) and also has a faster


  • KYL Level 1 (20 points)



    The graphics performance in terms of expose and mission control is poor on any mini you buy I'm afraid.


    I found that when only 2-3 Safari windows were open (no other apps) expose performed smoothly but anymore than that the lagging and jerkiness set in. I think you are like me as I have many apps and windows open constantly and when you use expose the graphics cards in the minis have to render so many windows in the higher res that it cant cope.


    In the end I sent the whole setup back and settled for a 15 inch Macbook Pro.


    Answering your question specifically the i7 with 6630M in my opinion performs worse than the i5 with Intel HD 3000. If you definately want a mini setup than I personally would go for the Intel HD 3000 graphics card and boost the system memory to 8GB which would give the graphics card 512mb of memory to play with compared with the 6630M's 256mb.


    But no matter which graphics card option you have once you have opened up a set number of windows expose will be laggy and jerky. The iMac has much better graphics cards with more pipelines for data flow and faster memory which is why they run so smooth. You may want to consider the base 21.5 inch imac as that only costs a little bit more than the Mini server.


    This is my personal experience but feel free to try again at your Apple store to test the performance yourself. 

  • ZX48 Level 1 (0 points)

    Thanks for your comments. Are you running a 2560x1440 display?


    I do intend to upgrade memory to 8GB..but not if the mini cannot do expose smoothly even then.


    I am coming from a 2008 (non unibody) MBPro running Leopard, where Expose is butter smooth. And is even relatively smooth when I plug in the 27" Dell display! It only has 256MB RAM. NVIDIA 8600M GT.


    On that machine I might have up to a dozen apps open, with 10-20 windows in total. Expose is a huge part of my multitasking workflow. Can lion really be so much more inefficient?


    Regarding iMac, the processor is not that much faster. The quad i7 mini can turbo up to 2.9 Ghz I believe. I also have a 256GB SSD in there.


    However, the 27" iMac I tested in store did indeed have 1GB of graphics memory.

  • ZX48 Level 1 (0 points)

    Dear KYL, thanks for you fast and honest response. I have to say I am really disappointed. Apple sell so few machines/hrdware choice, you would have thought that the ones they do sell could run the core function of the OS smoothly!


    I am really surprised that the Intel chip outperforms the 6630 for 2D? So the 6630 must only be better for 3D?


    Is there anywhere that list 2D and 3D performance of different graphics cards to get some idea?


    I may try adding the 8 RAM this week and see if it helpls at all. If it does, I wonder if there is a way to force the HD3000 to use even more RAM? i.e my modifying some of the preference or extension files somewhere.


    If it doesn't I'm not sure what I will do. all this is logged with Applecare, but the machine was bought by my University, so returning it will be terribly inconvenient - if it is at all possible.


    Buying a 15" MBPro is a very expensive way to achieve smooth Expose! I also will have unnecessarily ordered a superdrive external, and would then need to spec the MBPro with a SSD. And get an external HD too.


    I love the mini, and the speed of the i7 + SSD is incredible, but jerky OS on something one uses 8 hours a day is just not acceptable.


    The purchase is already inconvenient as I have to virtualise SL server to run some old academic software that needs Rosetta (but at leat that works).


    Ho hum...


    Expose has been around for 8 years or so. I'm amazed modern hardware can't work it smoothly (even on a big display)

  • ZX48 Level 1 (0 points)

    h and one f the reasons I did not chosose an iMac is becasue of the glossy display. I have a large window in my office and overhead fluorescent strip lights. Absolutley impossible to work on a reflective display IMO.  Hence I boight the 27" Dell U2711. (this also has the added benefit that i can run it from the MBPro via DVI if I need to by simply switching inputs.

  • KYL Level 1 (20 points)

    Yes I was running the mini through the Apple Thunderbolt display which has the same 2560 x 1440 display as the Dell monitor, in fact they both use exactly the same LG panel in them.


    Im no expert and I didnt test everything, but referring to the expose function specifically the HD 3000 performed better than the 6630. In terms of 3D and gaming etc I think the 6630 would perform better becasue it has faster GDDR5 memory.



    Thats a link to the specs of the 6630M which is in the mini and the site also has every other graphics card on there too in terms of the mobile GPU variety which is what Apple use in everything but the Mac Pro.


    Yes the Macbook Pro is expensive but the amount I paid for the mini and Thunderbolt display they were equal in price. In the end the laggy expose annoyed me so much I couldnt take it anymore lol.

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